Dinner Date with a Cicerone®: Slackwater with Beer-and-Pizza Pairings
Monday–Thursday: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
1895 Washington Blvd., Ogden
Is it true that beer is better than wine for food pairings? Beer lovers say yes, and you would be surprised at the number of sommeliers who agree. Why? Beer and food have something in common, which complements more than hinders, creating a beautiful and naturally harmonious dance on the palate. Plus, beer is great for every occasion, affordable, easy to share and pour, and like a summer-anthem song—only it plays all year long. Proper Brewing Certified Cicerone® Eleanor (Ellie) Lewis and Slackwater General Manager Mike Lee joined me and SLUG photographer Talyn Sherer to talk beer pairings and pizza. Well, not just talk, but eat and drink: Consuming is part of the job, after all. Spring has sprung and outdoor patio drinking has begun, so what better time to enjoy a pint or two?
First off, Slackwater is cool, and they are currently scouting to open a new location in Salt Lake. With their outdoor seating and garage doors that open to the patio, they offer one of the most extensive beer lists in Utah, along with damn-good pizza. The trick is that they add a little bit of honey to the dough, creating a savory crust, but the power is in the ingredient pairings. Before we get too far into the pies, I need to talk all things appetizers. Nachos and wings—both perfect starters with a beer to dive in. “Locally, a beer such as 2 Row Shorter Porter makes a nice pairing,” Lewis says. Let’s be real: We all know nachos, wings and beer go together better than peas and carrots ever could.
Finding a great local pint is easier than finding a nice, enjoyable local wine. With the beer scene exploding in Utah, Slackwater knows a thing or two about the subject, and what they have done by supporting the local craft brewing scene is commendable. “We offer a nice selection of beers, something for everyone, as well as a family-friendly environment,” says Lee, “which is a bonus. Our pizza dough is made in-house, and we take pride in chopping, cooking and roasting the ingredients right here in our small kitchen.” Lee took the liberty to order some of his favorite pies for us to taste and for Lewis to pair: The Hulk, Iron Horse, California Sunrise and the Piper Pesto. Happily enjoying all four slices, I’d like to say that no bellies were harmed in the making of this article …
The Hulk: Packing a little heat with its topped jalapeño slices, this pie is the combination of a fresh spring day and spring break in Cancún. Ripe tomatoes and avocado provide a delicate freshness, and the pepper brings the in-your-face flavor. “If you love spicy food, try a hoppy beer, as it will make the spice more intense,” says Lewis. “However, if you want to quench the thirst, a nice wheat beer will do the trick.”
Iron Horse: This is a combination style that resembles the meat-and-cheese pizza you know and love from television commercials. However, this is not an ordinary pie. The smoked red peppers atop the three-cheese blend, house marinara, pepperoni, sausage and red onion offer some sort of cosmic-power flavor, taking it beyond the everyday flavor, to “Mmm, wow.” This is paired nicely with an IPA or triple IPA. Ellie offers her favorite pairing: “a gose, which is both salty and sour, and complements nicely.”
Piper Pesto: Starting with a pesto cream base and topped with pine nuts and feta, this vegetarian option pairs with a saison, such as those from Proper or Red Rock. “Other nice beers include Dangereux Farmhouse Ale by 2 Row, or Tank 7 by Boulevard,” says Lewis.
California Sunrise: This pizza had me California dreaming, ready to drive my convertible along the coast and feel the warm breeze blow through my hair. This fresh, green-goddess-dressed pie is the flavor freshness of the first spring, top-down kind of day. The recommended pairing is a solid, crisp and carbonated beer to stand up against the flavor combinations of dressing, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted chicken and peppered bacon.
I asked Lewis why beer pairings are fun, as Avenues Proper offers a beer-pairing dinner once a month. She says, “The combination of beer and food cleanses the palate, as they are grain-based. There is a reason we love eating burgers and beers, or pizza and beer—they just work together. Whenever you are in doubt about pairings, Belgian-style is an easy go-to.”